The Black Student Union (BSU) at Illinois State serves as an umbrella organization, representing more than 30 registered student organizations (RSO) that identify as supporting black students on campus. Yet the work of the BSU is not simply for black students, noted BSU President Aleisha Reado.
“BSU is a place for resources and networking—both with students and with faculty and staff,” said Reado. “It also provides a place for everyone to learn more about the African American culture. We combine educational, social, and cultural events to give people insight into things impacting African Americans today.”
Reado said the BSU is about making connections. For some students, that means finding communities similar to ones they have always known. “Some people might feel out of place coming to a predominantly white institution, especially if they have not been around a lot of different cultures and races throughout their lives,” she said. “BSU can be a chance to find mentors, friends, and people who can guide them through a different environment.”
For other students, BSU is about reaching beyond those safe zones. “We connect with people from other organizations—the Association of Latin American Students, the Asian Pacific American Coalition, and ISU Pride. It’s not about excluding yourself from the rest of the campus, or just being around other people like you.”
Everyone is welcome to attend BSU meetings and events. The organization holds four signature events throughout the year: Quad Jam, Fall Fest community service, the Black Heritage Ball, and the Kick Out at the end of the school year. The group also holds general meetings every other Monday. The next meeting is November 28.
“We have open membership. Whoever wants to be part of BSU can, and we encourage it,” said Reado.
BSU advisor Tiffany Fulford, a graduate student with Diversity Advocacy, believes BSU’s mission is a balance of uplifting students and empowering them. “These are leaders, who want fellow students to have a voice, support, and a presence on campus,” she said. “They can focus on hard times and issues, while also uplifting people to move past those times and move forward together.”
Looking at scrapbooks with pictures of BSU events from the past, Reado notices something. “There were people from all different races and backgrounds at events. They were working together,” she said. “People don’t think that Black Student Union is for people outside our race, but we try to continue to let people know that it is a resource for all students to talk about what is happening in the world.”
Contact the Black Student Union at email@example.com.